What happens when Carer’s burn out?! Who picks up the shattered carer pieces and tries to put them back together again?
Over the years it would be fair to say I have crashed and burned a few times, the degree of care tips slightly with something, a family bereavement or as at the moment my parents needing more support and I feel like I am in free fall to the bottom of a very deep hole.
The pressure of needing to be able to care at all times, 24 hours a day and 365 days a year is huge. If all those who care stopped to think about it, we would probably all be in free fall.
When it comes to caring for Zach we have a plan, and we hope we are heading in the right direction. We have the best support in place for him that we could hope for and he is learning and for the most part enjoying life.
We no longer have any overnight short breaks for Zach which was a step backwards for him and us. Zach had got used to spending a couple of nights away from us each week which was good for his independence and it gave John and I a little window of time to do ‘normal’ couple things, a meal or maybe a film.
However eventually we will find somewhere which will make a suitable Transition House for Zach and some other young people who are at a similar stage in their journey and he will start to have independence from us again. Although it will be a slow process it will be good to know that we are moving forward.
So I have my job caring for Zach, there isn’t a day goes by when I am not considering things which need to be put in place, looking for interesting trips out, making appointments, buying equipment or wondering what to put in his nutri-bullet that night.
I have my paid job, 6 hours a week as a Community Staff Nurse, I visit patients in their homes who are in need of nursing care. Many patients are at the end of their life and require Palliative Care, It is so important that I am able to reassure both patients and family and friends. My head cannot fall off.
My parents are both 93, Dad is 94 on Sunday and my Mum in September. I am incredibly lucky to have them both and physically they are both in good health.
For a number of years my Dad has been almost completely deaf and my Mum has had Alzheimers Disease. This combination makes communication very difficult, my Mum often struggles to find words and my Dad can’t hear them even if she can.
Over the past months things have become increasingly difficult for them both. My Mum has severe anxiety at times and my Dad can’t seem to find a way to calm and reassure her. Other days my Mum is lucid and cheerful while my Dad is tired out and sleeping. My Mum is lonely and feels that they never do anything interesting or laugh with other people and has days when she doesn’t want to get out of bed.
The Carer’s go in at 09.00 every morning and my Dad panics if Mum refuses to get up! With age, my Dad has become inflexible and change aversive which I get, but it is also understandable that some days my Mum doesn’t want to get up.
I have been getting more and more frequent phone calls asking me to go round and help, I can hear shouting in the background, speak to my Mum on the phone who sounds distressed and feel I have to go, most people would. The idea that my elderly parents are struggling to cope and I might just be able to calm things down is what makes me go. It sometimes takes a while but we usually get there.
It is strange how one day you are bumping (not gliding) along like a sort of busy Water bird, paddling madly out of every ones view and then all of a sudden you feel like a dying swan. You don’t feel able to bump along anymore, the mass of responsibility that you feel at making sure everyone else is doing okay completely overwhelms you and you crash and burn.
I am at the moment hopefully back on the way up from my latest burn out, I have organised GP and Social Work visits for Dad and Mum which I hope will be fruitful.
I have to acknowledge I am only human and I don’t have a magic wand. I can’t change what has happened but I can help to change what might happen if help is put in place.
John is as ever a massive support, as are wonderful friends and it certainly helps to talk.
Sadly this is all too common for Carer’s, the isolation, expectation and responsibility just weighs too heavy. It is hard to know what the answer is, we can’t predict what will happen in our lives so can’t prepare and alter the course things take.
I am sending love and strength to all those who are Carer’s, you do an amazing job. It is probably the job with the least recognition and plaudits but one of the toughest there is to do.